The life of Arthur Laurents

Arthur Laurents, a writer, director, and also an author of Original Story By, Mainly On Directing, and The Rest Of The Story, was featured in The Wow Report on He is best known for directing  three revivals of Gypsy, but in his trio of memoirs we learn much more about the Tony Award winning director. Read about Arthur Laurents and his works in the article below!

00129232July 14, 1917Arthur Laurents, as the story goes: late for his place on a panel discussion, Laurents burst onto the stage draped in mink and announced: “Behold, a living legend!” Stephen Sondheim, also on the panel, looked up and said: “Wrong on both counts”.

I just ate up his trio of memoirs Original Story By (2000), Mainly On Directing (2009), and The Rest Of The Story (2012), each chock full of yummy, dishy theatre and Hollywood stories. Laurents is important to me in many ways. I admire the way he boldly lived his life. I love his work, most especially because he wrote the book for my favorite musical Gypsy (1959), which I find to be a perfect piece of theatre. Musical Theatre fanatics will go on forever discussing the subject of who was the greatest Mama Rose in this landmark musical. This casting quandary can be a playful parlor game or a bitter argument for Musical Theatre types. Jerome Robbins directed the original production, but Laurents directed three revivals of Gypsy including my favorite version starring my good close personal friend Angela Lansbury in 1974, but there was also Tyne Daly in 1989 and Patti Lupone’s 2007 Tony Award winning turn.

In 2010, at 92 years old, Laurents directed a revival of West Side Story, a theatre classic for which he wrote the original lean, strong book. In this production, it was Laurents’s conceit to have the Sharks and their girls, who are from Puerto Rico, speak and sing in Spanish. The cast would all be young and if not Puerto Rican, at least Hispanic. Laurents explained that the idea came from his partner of 52 years, Tom Hatcher (Laurents and actor Farley Granger had been lovers in the late 1940s), who admired a production of the musical in South America. It was also Hatcher who urged Laurents to revive Gypsy with Patti LuPone, so that the controversial Sam Mendes directed 2003 production starring Bernadette Peters would not be the last Gypsy in Laurents’s lifetime.

Laurents won four Tony Awards and was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning for his screenplay for The Turning Point (1977).

His life encompassed great swaths of 20th century cultural history and the famous figures 00314474within it. His theatre career had barely started when Laurents was drafted into the Army in 1941. He spent the war years writing training films and radio propaganda shows under the command of Private George Cukor. He had also come to terms with his gayness and soon lost count of the sexual experiences he experienced while in the Army. In Original Story By he writes openly of his lifetime of gay encounters, referring to his partners as “those unremembered hundreds.”

As a gay man living as openly as possible during some of this country’s most dangerous times, Laurents was a role model of discretion, but he was living the way he wanted, despite public opinion and cruelty against gay people everywhere.

Read the article in its entirety here.



Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on July 18, 2016, in Theatre, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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